Sunday, March 29, 2015

My minimal/imperfect home office, last minute inexpensive project 333 additions, and my new, therapeudic hobby...

Coming off of a great weekend, there are three topics on my mind that I feel like writing about, all related to livin' the life:

1. My minimal and imperfect home office
2. Two last minute (very inexpensive - yay) project 333 additions/substitutions
3. My new hobby which was an insta-mood boost this weekend.

This photo is a bit grainy, sorry....but here is my home office, where I work one day a week. This is far from how it would look if I had everything my way, but I have to say that I like and appreciate the imperfection as it is now. I do actually find it to be a peaceful place to work. I have to work in a clean, clutter free space. I don't keep my laptop or anything else work-related here when I'm not working. Just a lamp and a vase/flowers that I love. The desk is an antique passed down from my mother in law. I'm planning to give it a nice makeover (thinking opaque white paint/finish, shiny mercury glass drawer pulls), but I have no time at the moment. Also, the chair is horrific. It's ugly. It doesn't work. It's not comfortable. But it'll do for now, because we are allocating our resources elsewhere. I do, however, love the artwork. I worked with my toddler daughter to paint the two on the sides with ink and watercolor, and the huge one in the middle is an IKEA product that I lusted after for years, until we finally bought it (a floor model on discount, as they were discontinued).

This weekend I spent some of my cash on two wardrobe items that I'm swapping out. This is part of my experiment on having cheaper, albeit less-quality items. The scarf was $14 at Target, and the shoes were on steep discount at $16 from a nearby outlet mall. However, I really like both, and was very critical in searching for them. I don't feel as "invested" money wise in them, so I'm hoping that if they get worn down or broken, I won't be as upset. Though, these may be like my sunglasses, and impress me with their longevity and versatility, despite how cheap they are.

Anyway, the sandals I got to replace my old birkenstocks. I wore the birkenstocks with a dress to church a couple of weekends ago, and I seriously felt like I looked like a dumpy old lady. I thought, I have to get some sandals that look cooler and aren't so grubby. The scarf came from my realization that I needed a lightweight, chiffon-like scarf for spring/summer. My purple one is heavy, and was getting's not even full out heat here yet, so that was my cue.

When our kids went to spend the morning with the grandparents, my husband was going to go out to mow and edge the lawn. I asked if there was something that I could help him with (looking for ways to be somewhat "active" and outdoors)....and behold, there was indeed! He delegated weeding and cleaning out dead plants or overgrowth in the various planters and flower beds to me. This is the first time it's been done since we moved in in November.

I hate to admit - I've never had to do yard work before, but I did take horticulture in college, so I know a thing or two about plants. My husband gave me a pair of work gloves, let me borrow his pants to wear, and left me with a slew of various tools. I was out there gardening for three hours! And I loved every minute of it! While it wasn't the funnest aspect, in that I was more "cleaning" instead of cultivating and planting, I found working with my hands and being outside to give me a massive mood boost! We have a shitload (pardon my french) of mint growing on the side yard planter (it's pictured above, but that's only a small's all along the side). After I was finished I grabbed a few leaves and put some in my iced water. I pruned some bushes and small trees. I removed an aloe vera plant from our mailbox area, and replanted it in a more desirable location. I did lots of shoveling and weed-pulling.

I'm looking forward to doing more gardening next weekend. I'll keep you posted on how it goes. Removing a half-dead, rather large plant that I didn't have time to get from the front and planting several large pink rose bushes are in the plans so far.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Casual to Boardroom, Baby. Project 333 Wardrobe Combos for Work

My work environment is biz caz, as is the case with many of us corporate folk! I go through phases of wanting to dress up or down, but overall, I dress for what is going on at work. I'm no CEO, so when I say "boardroom", I may physically be in a literal boardroom, but it's not like I'm trying to land a deal or something. On the flip side, Fridays are jeans days where I work. Therefore, in the course of one week, you'll see me all dressed up fancy, wearing jeans, and then yoga pants on my work from home day.

Here are some ways I combine my existing wardrobe of approximately 34 items (see project 333 for more info) to work it for a dynamic work week...

  1. Casual - When jeans and flats are appropriate at work! Yay! I try to make sure my jeans don't have any holes/rips, and also stay away from sneakers or strappy sandals when I'm doing the casual thing at work.
  2. Business Casual - The corporate uniform, y'all. This is like, I drag myself to the coffee machines and click snooze on my outlook calendar reminders. But, I try to make it look like I care, because I do my dear.
  3. Professional - When I have regular face to face meetings, this is what I dress like. I've really loved wearing dresses...I feel they make me look more formal, but surprisingly not overly feminine. Just pulled together and polished.
  4. Boardroom - When I have to present to big groups of people, tend to something quite serious, or when I know I'll be highly visible. Buttoned up blazer, collared dress shirt, and pants signify the most formal look, to me. This is not often, in my position, but I think the higher you get, the more you have to dress like this.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring Project 333! Hello work dresses! And color!

I thought I could go all year without changing my wardrobe at all. That can't happen - just not realistic for me. But I still love limiting my wardrobe size and my spending/consumption habits. With that being said, I've decided to start doing Project 333 again...I think the cyclical nature of it makes quite a bit of sense, now that I've tried some other methods.

I have decided to step up my game with regard to my work look, so I rid myself of any worn, ragged looking items and bought some new dress shirts (from my Boston trip) and dresses, which I am really excited about, and have loved wearing. Dresses are challenging, because I need them to be knee-length or just above the knee. Also, they can't be low cut. I'm 5'8", so the length requirement is a bit tough, but with enough searching, it can be obtained. Also, I did the monochrome wardrobe thing for months and months, and it was getting so sad to me. I love wearing color....especially the red dress.

Here is my spring Project 333 wardrobe! There are 34 items, not including workout gear and pjs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

My painting is done! Our house.

I thought I knew my "plan", made an inspiration board, a sketch, and all that....but in the end, I really wanted to do something totally different. I painted our house! It's not quite as landscaped and the door isn't painted red yet (paint is purchased, but I haven't executed the project yet), but I thought it would be a really cool, timeless piece for us to have in our family...even if we were to move someday. You'll never forget your first house. It's not something I usually do, but I actually like the way it looks in our living room for now. It may be nice in the hallway too.

It was my first time to paint using acrylic ink - that stuff is amazing.

The finished product hanging over our mantle in the living room. It's so meta.....a painting of our house, inside our house.
Sketch I did prior to painting.
Base layers - halfway done.
Close up.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Taking care of yourself on a budget.

Let's talk about my tried-and-true drugstore makeup/skincare/hair items, that I recommend to anyone....

2015 is the year of getting my finances in order. Therefore, fitting things into the budget is a top priority. While I do still enjoy some high-end items where I feel it's worth it, I have been searching for and trying drugstore items more and more when it comes to makeup, skin care, shampoo, etc. I've grown accustomed to researching reviews on Youtube and elsewhere before buying, and even then, I've had a bit of trial and error happen with drugstore items. There are so many choices, and it's really a hit or miss.

Here are my "GOOD ENOUGH TO REPURCHASE" items for those of you who are on a budget, or just don't want to splash out the extra cash for these types of items...

Skincare: I'm a Burts Bees convert with skin care. I've tried and liked many of their products, but the ones I mention here are the winners for me. It's a bit pricey for something you buy at the grocery store, but it is much cheaper than Sephora, or department store high-end brands.
  1. Burts Bees "Radiance" Facial Cleanser with Royal Jelly - This is my favorite BB's cleanser. I use this at night before bed.
  2. Burts Bees "Radiance" Day Lotion with Royal Jelly - This really is perfect to put on just before you apply makeup. It makes your skin look healthier, and actually makes your makeup look smoother.
  3. Burts Bees Hydrating Night Cream - If I could have one skin care product, this would be it. This night cream has drastically changed the state of my skin, and it is so rich. Screw $400 La Mer night cream....this stuff will do.
  4. Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque - I use this a couple of times a week, and it really works well! When it dries onto your face, it sucks the impurities out of your skin. Powerful green stuff. And only costs couple of bucks.
 Makeup: There are a few makeup items that I truly feel that high end is well worth it (blush, bronzer, eyeshadow, namely). However, a couple of these I've been using for years, and the lip crayon and eyeliner are the clear winners so far of a long trial of various drugstore products.
  1. NYX waterproof eyeliner in "Brown" - This is easy to apply and stays on all day. Doesn't drag or skip like most drugstore eyeliners. Best part is it's only $2 or so.
  2. Sonia Kashuk matte lip crayon in "Coraly Nude" - This is only sold at Target or online, I believe. I've tried many many many different lip products, and I've experimented with lots of different colors. I've learned that coral is the shade that flatters me the most, and I like that this particular shade is a bit more subdued and office-appropriate. I like a fuss-free lip product that isn't sticky and stays on for a long time. This product is awesome. Can stand with or without chapstick on top.
  3. Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Eraser Dark Circles in "Brightener" - THIS IS THE MOTHER OF ALL UNDER EYE CONCEALER. Hyped up highly online in the beauty blogger community, and rightfully so. I've been using this for about 2 years.
  4. Loreal True Match Foundation in "Soft Ivory" - This is great coverage while still looking natural, and most importantly, it doesn't make my sensitive skin break out. I've repurchased this, and will likely continue to do so.
Hair: My hair is pretty low maintenance. Two of these I've been using for years and years, and the shampoo/conditioner is a more recent discovery.
  1.  Suave Dry Shampoo - This stuff is cheap and powerful. Works better than other drugstore brands I've tried.
  2. Tresemme Hairspray in level 4 - I've been using this since high school, I think. Every now and then I'll try another type, but I always regret it and come back to this.
  3. OGX (Organix) Macadamia Oil Shampoo/Conditioner - This is sulfate free, and for some reason, I've never had a shampoo and conditioner give me as many "good hair days" as these. They smell delectable as well. This was a recommendation from a Youtuber I like to watch. I've been using different shampoos and never repurchasing the same type since I was really young, but I am sticking with these!

Friday, March 13, 2015

My work week in Boston

The week is now over, and I'm back from a business trip to Boston. I was really just working working working in the Financial District, and walking to nearby restaurants late at night the entire time, so really did not get to see and experience much of the city, but what I did see I thought was great. I did get eat some squid ink pasta for the first time, and I developed a love for marinated olives.

Regarding my business trip clothes, I packed very light. I re-wore a few things from my suitcase. For this trip, I had to up my game a bit for my meetings, so I got two traditional button-down collar shirts, which replaced two tired old shirts (both lululemon shirts that I was using for both workout and daily is faded and jaded, the other has a stain. Both are just workout clothes now).

Also, for fear that my trench coat would not be sufficient for walking around in freezing temps, my friend kindly let me borrow her long wool coat before I left. It worked really well. This taught me that I need to invest in a true sub-freezing winter coat at some point...but the climate I live in lets me get away with not doing it.

When I travel, even if it's for business, I come back with a fresh perspective on my life. I don't often spend time alone, so perhaps that's part of it. Somehow trying new foods, seeing how people in other cities and states live, and fending for yourself on mini-adventures like sorting out public transport make you grow as a person. So mushy, but I'm starting to think that I love travel. However, I am glad that I don't need to travel often for work, because I miss my kids and my husband a lot when I'm gone, and I know it's hard on them.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Conflicted about "having nice things"

Ever since I started being more intentional about pursuing minimalism, I've thought that it's made sense to have fewer, but higher quality items. However, I've found that I'm that much more annoyed when something breaks, gets lost, is irreparable, shrinks in the wash, etc.

Yeah, stuff breaking and going out of repair is a fact of life, but I've found that when I spend more money on things, I get more upset when that happens. If my $12 sunglasses from Target get snapped in half, no problem! I'll just replace them - no sweat off my back. However, now that my $400 pair of glasses goes missing, I'm thinking, "why did I spend so much on those frames when I could have spent $100 or so?" (These glasses frames are only a year and a half old, mind you.)

Somehow if the high quality and/or expensive item has worn out and given me the years I expected out of it, I'm not upset by that...but rather, it's these cases where spending more money didn't necessarily buy me a longer-lasting item, or one that was all that much more well-designed.

There are a couple of areas that I've never struggled with, and have always wanted to keep my spending for quality to as minimum as possible: cars and technology. I don't get the bare minimum, but I get something reliable that I think will work for me in the long run. You won't see me buying the latest model cell phone or a luxury's just not worth it to me to have that amount of money tied up into a depreciating asset.

The problem with clothes, shoes, and most accessories is that they aren't valuable enough to warrant an insurance policy, yet they break and go missing just like those higher-dollar items. Clearly I'm still balancing where I am on the continuum of spending $$$ to get quality....all I know is that I want to keep a minimalist lifestyle as much as possible.